I ran across this post by Karen Koehler, at a blawg I really like, The Velvet Hammer, which highlights something I’ve known for a long time: you’re far better off trying a case against an experienced, high quality lawyer, than someone who’s a newbie or careless, or both. Karen draws on her experience trying a case against a really poor defense lawyer. She won, but in the post-verdict discussions with the jurors she learned that they felt so sorry for the defendant because she had such a bad lawyer that they felt they had to “even things out.”
I echo this sentiment, but I would also broaden it to include everything from the filing of a complaint through trial. “Challenged” lawyers make our job harder–and the case more costly–from day one. They don’t know the value of the case, its strengths or weaknesses, so they can’t every talk realistically about settlement (forget about actually reaching an early resolution). They don’t follow the rules, so it’s up to the responsible lawyers to comply with the rules, including venue-specific or judge-specific procedural nuances. It seems like they’re never available to address anything substantively. They fight battles over the wrong things–again wasting time. They file improper briefs, like sur-reply briefs, complete with brand new evidence, which fouls up the entire process.
We all started somewhere. I was fortunate to have great mentors and some really great training (which didn’t prevent me from still making some stupid mistakes). But the goal should be to improve and try to learn from mistakes, not to keep making them.
Lawyering is like tennis in that the quality of your opponent brings out the best in your game. I’ll take a Federer or Nadal any day.